Four years ago my mum and I went to visit my sister in Zürich, Switzerland. She was doing an internship there and we had decided to take the night train from the Netherlands to Zürich, which would drop us off right in the middle of the city after about ten hours. I spent the visit mostly trotting after the other two and trying to figure out how my new camera worked.
The world mourns David Bowie, and rightly so. He’s had an amazing career and he made the world a little brighter by being in it. He was a source of inspiration for countless musicians and other artists, not to mention an icon for the LGBTQ community. I visited the David Bowie Is exhibition in Groningen last week (which I highly recommend!) and I was delighted to see how he combined making art, theatre, fashion, film, and music; he himself was a masterpiece.
However, a celebrity’s death inevitably also unearths their more problematic characteristics, which people are quick to dismiss in the face of their virtues. In David Bowie’s case, something that came up a lot (which I was hitherto unaware of) was his love for fascism and his admiration of Adolf Hitler, whom he compared to a rock star. His persona the Thin White Duke was modelled on an Aryan Übermensch. It is a delicate subject; there are those who attribute the remarks to “cocaine psychosis and extreme misjudgement”, saying that the media exaggerated and “wilfully misunderstood” them (source). Others are not so quick to forgive Bowie and accuse him of having been a Nazi sympathiser and a white supremacist. What I want to do in this post is merely explain why he was seen as such; in no way do I defend his ideologies just because I like his music, nor will I condemn outright the things he said during a period where he claims to have been “politically naive” and likely under the influence of certain substances.